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By Suzanne, Chief Health Officer
I love decorating for the holidays–and it’s entirely possible to do so with natural, non-toxic decor! Here are some of my best natural holiday decorating ideas.
1) We get a real tree. I love to go to a tree farm–preferably an organic one!– and choose a beautiful evergreen tree. Yes, real trees are more work, but for me the smell alone makes it worth it. In terms of toxicity, it’s true that real trees can be treated with pesticides and herbicides, and that some people report asthma and allergic reactions from mold in real trees. Still, most artificial trees are made of PVC, which usually contains phthalates and may be contaminated with lead or treated with toxic flame retardants. Polypropylene trees are your best bet if you’re going the artificial tree route. Were I buying a fake Christmas tree, this is the one I would get. And whatever tree you choose, we recommend running an air filter near the tree. (This is the filter I have in my living room.) The bottom line: we don’t think a real tree poses a significant risk to your health if you do not suffer from other health problems.
2) We decorate with fresh garlands and wreaths. It seems that the proliferation of synthetic decorations encourages people to decorate earlier each year because they last forever; I saw the decorations in stores before Halloween this year! I prefer to wait a few weeks before Christmas and then to use decorations that come primarily from nature. Synthetic garlands and wreathes can carry with them all the same risks as artificial trees. I decorate my mantle with berries, pine cones, and dried flowers. My tree garlands are often made by threading popcorn and fresh cranberries. Kids like making these, and there is no such thing as to many strands! I also love poinsettias and buy at least three ones every year.
3) We collect meaningful ornaments. You can definitely make your own beautiful ornaments from beeswax (these pine cones ones are so pretty) or wool (we’ve made many of these angels). You can also look for one-of-a-kind ornaments made from natural materials. I like Danforth metal ones, which are hand-made in Vermont. You can find wooden or felt ornaments easily online (Maia has this one and I love this one). Maia picks up ornaments whenever she travels, and her tree is filled with memories from places she’s visited. It’s fun to find ornaments that have a special meaning to you or members of your family and I personally have never liked color-coordinated, generically perfect trees! (The tree above belongs to a friend of Maia’s, who owns a wonderful clothing store in Boston, by the way.)
4) I fill my home with natural holiday scents. We are so excited to have finally found a natural beeswax candle company that makes holiday scented candles, from Fraser Fir to Peppermint Twist. These not only smell amazing, but also cast a lovely light on everything. I also love these essential oils, which I put in my diffuser to make my home smell like orange, nutmeg, cedarwood, and pine.
5) We try to use eco-friendly wrapping materials. We all know by now how environmentally detrimental wrapping paper is, and it’s even been found to contain lead and chlorine. My husband has forever used brown paper bags to wrap our gifts–he cuts them into flat sheets of paper and then uses crayons and watercolors to make colorful designs all over the paper. When we the kids were young, we would cut potatoes in half and make stamps to decorate our paper (instructions here). Or you can collect beautiful, whole-page images from magazines and use them to wrap gifts. You can also reuse paper by using only small bits of tape when wrapping (or use ribbon or string rather than tape). Finally, there are more and more reusable wrapping paper supplies available, like these pretty bags, which are available our store.
Warm regards and happy holidays,
3 responses to “Non-Toxic Holiday Decorating Ideas”
Can I get any recommendations on lights? I have been having trouble finding safer ones.
When I click on the link for the Balsam Hill tree, it is no longer available on Amazon (at least in Canada). I believe a good alternate to recommend would be Ikea’s artificial Christmas trees. They are free of flame retardants and PVC.